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The Red Roses – Verdict – an exceptional squad of players

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This is one spectator’s reading of the qualities that went to make up such an exceptional squad of players:

Sarah Hunter

Astonishing work-rate from a centurion. Her tackle-scores are scarcely credible and she links with her outside support more than ever. She led a highly talented team with obvious pride and pleasure.

Zoe Aldcroft

Her absence through injury meant England were always short-staffed in the second row. Let’s hope she’s soon restored to full power.

Sarah Beckett

She stepped up from the U20s with apparent ease. Huge work-rate at line-out and breakdown. The Player of the Match against Italy. She’s added herself to the leading contenders to inherit the No 8 shirt.

Sarah Bern

She promised she’d be fit again in January and, my word, she was! Match-winning displays of running rugby from a tight-head. The Player of the Tournament in many people’s eyes.

Hannah Botterman

She has still to master every front-row subtlety, but her all-round performance shows huge promise. She combined bullocking runs with
skilful handling and footwork.

Jess Breach

While her speed captured the headlines, her dainty footwork was another major cause of opposition frailty. She transferred from 7s back to 15s with obvious enjoyment. A wondrous second try against France. Nine tries in one Six Nations; twenty in a 7-test career. Now to get the better of Portia Woodman – Lydia Thompson has shown us how.

Jo Brown

She has not yet been able to force her way through the crowded queue of back-rowers to establish a more permanent presence.

Shaunagh Brown

Like her fellow newbie prop, Bryony Cleall, she has much to learn about scrummaging technique, while the rest of her game is immensely powerful. My idea of a frightening No 6, but there are others.

Rachael Burford

A shock to see her reduced to the bench, but a reminder of the standards now being reached. Still a outstanding centre, a defensive lynch-pin and gifted with a mastery of handling possessed by few others.

Rowena Burnfield*

It was good to see her long service rewarded with an EPS contract, but she was another who had to wait patiently for the call to arms.

Bryony Cleall*

She was delighted to get the call-up, having spent years recovering from injury. She has much to learn about her new position. A spell back in the back row would no doubt show her at her destructive best again.

Poppy Cleall

Her wholehearted efforts in defence and attack gave England a decisive edge. Her off-loading creates so many openings.

Amy Cokayne*

Four opposing nations must have felt grateful that she wasn’t a full-time squad member. Close to being the ideal No 2.

Vickii Cornborough

A vital cog in the English forward machine, helping to keep her side on the front foot. A sound scrummager who is more and more prominent in open play.

Katy Daley-Mclean

Where would England be without her? She seems to command every game she plays in. Her speed of thought and execution remains untrammelled by the passing years. Offers master-classes in kicking.

Lark Davies

Her all-round game proved that Amy Cokayne wasn’t being held back on the bench just because of her part-time availability. Her line-out throw was accurate and she put herself about the field to telling effect.

Abby Dow*

Injury delayed her start till Round 3. Her try in Cardiff demonstrated her power as well as her pace. Let’s hope that one appearance was enough to convince the selectors of her admirable qualities.

Vicky Fleetwood

She made a delayed but welcome recall to the colours against Italy and eventually played in her proper position hooker. Answered the demands of a voracious crowd by bringing up the 50 points with a headlong dive. Now that the World Cup permits squads of 30, it might be sensible to nominate three hookers; she can slot in capably at No 7 when needed.

Rosie Galligan†

Her call-up to the bench for the Ireland game showed the players left off the professional list that the door remains open to all.

Zoe Harrison

Used in all five games as a No 12, she showed her adaptability, acting as a sort of second five-eighth, Kiwi-fashion. She is ready to take to the big stage in the No 10 shirt. A fine handler and kicker, her elusive running adds to her range of skills.

Tatyana Heard

In the first two games she made a serious claim to the No 12 shirt, a position commanded by Rachael Burford and few others. She showed aggression alongside subtle movements that created space for the rest of the back-line.

Natasha Hunt

On her return from 7s she had to wait her turn behind Leanne Riley, but when on the field she displayed all her old talents, upping England’s already high tempo. England are lucky to possess two such gifted No 9s.

Poppy Leitch†

Since the England selectors prefer to keep the two flank positions distinct, they were lacking a true No 7 when Packer and Fleetwood got injured. Hence the uncontracted Leitch’s call into the French game where she performed quite admirably.

Justine Lucas

Absent injured. England’s longest serving prop, she will be anxious to re-establish her right to a leading place in the squad.

Claudia Macdonald*

She will have been delighted to get the call-up, but inevitably had to wait her turn to get on the pitch. Will the selectors opt for three scrum-halves at the next World Cup?

Sarah McKenna

Who could have imagined the loss of the great Nolli Waterman having so little effect on England’s performance? McKenna has spent most of her elite career in 7s, but her all-round displays in the 6N were quite outstanding: clearance kicks, devastating running lines in broken play, quick-witted handling and sound defence. Another candidate for England’s Player of the Tournament.

Catherine O’Donnell

She took full advantage of Tamara Taylor’s disappearance from the the scene and Zoe Aldcroft’s untimely injury to provide England with the power and industry needed in the boiler-room. A constant support in attack and her defence was ruthless.

Marlie Packer

Still a major cause of massive dents in the opposition’s defensive armoury and well-being. She has the reverse effect on her team-mates who love having her around.

Ellena Perry*

Absent injured. May well prove a vital element in future England packs. Time is on her side. Specialist loose-heads are few and far between.

Leanne Riley

Any player who can keep Mo Hunt waiting on the bench must have admirable qualities. Her standing pass is probably the best amongst world No 9s. She is quick and combative and happy to boss her pack around – though preferably not the ref as well. Did vital rescue work against France.

Emily Scarratt

Her longed-for return to 15s added so much to the England set-up: massive competence in defence, handling of the highest order and kicking skills given to very few. Is rugby really so easy?

Abbie Scott

She may lay claim to being the premier lock in the world. She has inherited Tamara Taylor’s mastery of the line-out, and her versatility runs to deft off-loads in the heaviest traffic. Her defence is vibrant. A worthy choice as captain in Hunter’s absence. How come she never looks tired?

Emily Scott*  

It was good to see her restored to the strength, but she had to wait her turn. Versatile enough to play at 10 or 15. She adds accurate kicking to her pace and elusiveness.

Kelly Smith

Her talents complemented those of her inside backs, exploiting the openings they offered her to maximum effect. Try-scoring isn’t meant to be that simple. She tackles far above her weight.

Lydia Thompson

Much missed with a shoulder injury. England have yet to solve the riddle of playing four exceptionally gifted wingers at the same time. Her generosity of spirit was well shown in her pitch-side comments.

Lagi Tuima

Absent injured. Having made a decisive debut last year, she could only look on as others seized their chance.

Carys Williams

With such competition in the centre her openings were limited, but she has the range of skills to make a valuable contribution.

* indicates a player on an EPS agreement
† indicates a non-contracted player